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Kim and Erica Minutella recently met up with Dennis Finocchiaro, editor of the upcoming Anthology Philly, for a chat.

By Dennis Finocchiaro

A chat with the Sisters Minutella (read: Brothers Grimm) is about as entertaining as they come. Kim, a self-proclaimed introvert, chattered away as her older sister Erica listened on and chimed in when necessary.

Kim and Erica are the recent winners of a contest held by WragsInk Publishing to find fresh new writing talent in the Philadelphia Area. Their story, Beautiful Things, took first place in the contest and will be the opening story in Anthology Philly, due out in March. I met with the co-writers of the story for a chat.                

Beautiful Things is the story of a strange man, Julius Taylor, who moves to a small town where everyone notices his eccentricities. Most gossip about the newcomer, everyone except his neighbor Ellie. Her curiosity gets the better of her and he comes home one day to find her sitting in his living room. The story that started as a horror short ended up “more as a fairy tale” in the end, says Erica.

Elle was based off of Kim, ultimately,” Erica explained. “She was bullied a lot as a kid, picked on for being different. That inspired both the character and the story. I wanted to write something that she could relate to so I made some changes to [the original] story.”

After a moment of quiet reflection on her past, Kim perked up again and explained. “Beautiful Things was a story I came up with in the eighth grade. I wanted people to know that being different was okay, that there wasn’t anything wrong with it. It’s about society and acceptance of different people. I told Erica the story, and every few years we would discuss it, pull it out, and add some details to it.”

It ended up in the anthology editor’s hands, namely me. And as I read it, I knew right away it was one of, if not the, best we received. I was blown away. It had this sense of magical realism, mostly created by the fact that the newcomer, Mr. Taylor, collected oddities of his own. He had a violin that would play melancholy songs on its own and other similarly strange objects. This idea drew me right into the story.

My favorite books as a kid were the Narnia series. I just loved them,” Erica said.

Kim quickly interjected, “She used to look in wardrobes all the time for another world.” I can only assume she meant as a child, but you never know. Creative people never fully give up on the childlike dreams, do they?

So after years of revisiting and editing the story, the sisters decided it was time to free the story into the world and into my hands. And I was absolutely thrilled.

One of the more intriguing parts is when two of the characters, a little girl and an older man, end up as friends. The diction of the story was carefully chosen to keep them from treading those dangerous waters; any feeling of negativity would have seriously diminished the power of the story.

I wanted to maintain a sense of innocence in the characters,” Erica said. “I felt like that was so important. Not everything has to relate to everyone’s bad nature.”

Yeah,” Kim added. “It was about the guy’s good nature. We wanted to show that just because the guy is into oddities [he isn’t] so bad. Everybody is so worried about people who are different. They’re not weird; they’re just into different things. Everyone is different. We just wanted to make these characters good people.”

Everyone has that inspiring adult in his or her life, and Ellie finds that in Mr. Taylor. “There’s always an authority figure in life that inspires you, whether it’s a teacher or the cool uncle that you have,” Erica said.

Kim actually had a friend when she was little, an older neighbor Bob. They had a similar relationship, and we wanted to capture that in the story. Everyone knew him and nobody thought anything of his friendliness. And they were right to feel that way; Uncle Bob, as Kim referred to him, was just a nice guy who lived on the street and got along with everyone.

As a child, Kim needed a friend like him, considering her history with her classmates. “He was actually a really good person who also happened to read a lot of conspiracy books.” Eventually, Kim would also turn to graphic novels and Manga as not only an escape but also for inspiration. The Visual Studies major is currently attending Tyler School of Art and aspires to work as a graphic novelist.

I owe it all to Erica. She got me into Manga and graphic novels, especially DragonBall Z, Batman and stuff like that. It’s what I want to do when I grow up.” Her dream job, she went on to say, would be to work for DC Comics.

A sketch by Kim Minutella

Erica works promoting visual artists in Philadelphia and is working on her first novel, one that she doesn’t like talking about too much in the early stages. “I’m working on a novel, it’s set a thousand years in the future and is a parody of video game culture.” But that was as much as she would say about it as she moved on in the conversation.

When I was in third grade I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to write novels at some point, and writing a short story is probably the best way to get started,” Erica said.

The funny thing that came up was the fact that Erica wasn’t sure what genre she wanted to work in until a certain professor informed her of a quote, allegedly by Isaac Asimov (I tried to find it but could not).

I switched back and forth between fantasy and horror. Finally I took a science fiction class in which the professor quoted Asimov in saying that women couldn’t write science fiction and that it was the province of men and they shouldn’t even try. So once I heard that I accepted the challenge.” And while Beautiful Things isn’t exactly science fiction, it is an excellent mixture of fantasy, fairy tale and sci-fi, which is part of what makes it so appealing.

One thing the sisters have in common is their love of the characters they create. Kim spoke of them as if they were her children, while Erica backed that up even more.

I think of my characters…they’re all pieces of my personality, not only do I identify with them, but it’s as [Kim] said, they’re like my children and I’m watching them grow up. I hate when I have to kill one off.”

I had to wonder what the process was like between not only two authors, but two who are also siblings. Their process is simple: conversations. They bring up the story once in a while, bouncing ideas off of each other, and as they tell it, the story began to form on its own. “We actually talk about our ideas all the time. I have a sketchpad at all times where I take notes and then I share them with Erica.”

Erica continued her thoughts. “It’s very chaotic. We change ideas all of the time.”

We’re actually really close, practically best friends,” Kim said. This was obvious from my time with them.

While neither of the girls had been published before this anthology, it won’t be long before we hear from both of them again, of this I am sure.

If you want to check out the story by The Sisters Minutella, then check it out on Amazon.

Photograph by Antonio Greco

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  By Dennis Finocchiaro

Can I just say how excited I am for this book? Yes, it’s true, I’m biased. I edited the book and publicized it to the Philadelphia area; it is sort of a child to me. But after collecting all of those stories and sitting down, I found myself inspired by the creativity and excellent writing of people in the Philadelphia locale.

For those of you who don’t know, Anthology Philly started as a contest. Locals of the area were invited to submit short stories and the only rule was that they live somewhere in Philadelphia or in the immediate suburbs. The overflow of stories was surprising. We received about fifty submissions (and many, many more inquiries) and I had quite a pile of reading to do before choosing not only the winners, but also the stories that deserved publication.

As a fellow creative writer, I can find any genre interesting if the story is told right, if the imagery pours the author’s setting into my head and the characters are engaging. Genre matters not to me, but what I loved most about these stories is the range in genres that we received. The final collection of AP includes horror, drama, romance, comedy, and of course beautiful syntheses of multiple types.

And that’s what I think makes AP unique. It has something to offer for every reader. Enjoy horror? Then check out Robert Angelo Masciantonio’s story of a young killer moving into the neighborhood. Enjoy drama? Then your best bet would be Alisha Ebling’s story of the broken relationship of an estranged husband and wife. Want something with a little fantasy and magic? Then of course, the first story in Anthology Philly by Erica and Kim Minutella is for you.

And so, I hope you, dear readers, find the feeling of extreme anticipation that I do when I think about this book and its upcoming release, which should be early March. WragsInk should be proud of this one.

Dennis Finocchiaro is the author of The Z Word, a collection of flash fiction that takes place during the zombie apocalypse, Capturing a Moment, a collection of flash fiction typed onto vintage photographs and is the editor of the upcoming release Anthology Philly. You can also read some of his stories on his blog.

WragsInk is also having a similar contest for poets in the Philadelphia area. If you or someone you know lives there and writes poems, please ask for more information by emailing Phillyfictioncontest [at] gmail [dot] com. The book, Anthology Philly, has since been released and is available on Amazon if you don’t live in the area.

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By Dennis Finocchiaro

With the start of 2012, everyone is thinking about resolutions; some plan to lose weight and exercise, others might want to try new things, start a hobby, hit that museum they keep thinking about…so I asked some of the WragsInk staff and the Philly Anthology authors about their writing/publishing resolutions for 2012. Here’s how they responded:

Rich Okewole, publisher extraordinaire, says

“My resolution is to do a better job of handling my task list on a daily basis and to constantly try to fix things from the day before.”

Dimeji Okewole, more of a list guy, says,

  • Ongoing improvement as a publisher.
  • Do more legwork (as much as possible).
  • Get to more local readings

Bill Freas of the story Baked Goods had this to say:

1. Adhere to style standards enough to be respected, but not so much you lose your soul.
 2. Develop characters rich enough that you actually would want to have a drink with them to get further in their brains.
 3. Only write stories that I NEED to tell and set the crap aside – those may turn from crap to gold next year.
 4. Stop letting the negative voices from outside my head get inside and make noise, thus disrupting the writing.
 5. Don’t feel constrained by genre – hybrids tend to be more effective anyway.

Jordyn Occhipinti – author of How Do You Like Your Deer Meat?, says

“My writing resolutions are: to quit making excuses, to quit being so scared, to be more daring, adventurous, precise and delicate, to be less embarrassed, to write so much more, to find some sort of comforting discomfort or discomforting comfort in truth and practice and commitment to craft, to find the time, to stop abusing the thesaurus, to stop avoiding the impulse, to finally share and to finally show.”

Kathryn Evans Ombaum, author of Fresh:

“My writing resolutions for 2012 are simple: write everyday in some
way.  I have my blog, my editing clients, my unfinished short stories,my recent trip to Kenya to get out of my head –  I have so much to do! So no excuses for too much Facebook and reality television, if I’m not working, caring for my child, or sleeping, why not write?”

John Fowler of the story Peephole, says,

“My resolution for 2012 is to break this writer’s block.  The last story that I wrote was over a year ago and that was for a creative writing class.  It was a lot easier to discipline myself when I knew I had a grade to earn.  Aside from procrastination, I also need to start reading more.  The more you read the better writer you become. ”

Eric McKinley, author of Lamar’s Inheritance:

“I have a couple of resolutions: 1). Make every character I write this year have one memorable moment. 2). Finish a first draft of the novel I’m working on.”

Angela Marchesani of the short story Open had this to say:

“I resolve to continue practicing the verbal description of physical experiences—- something I struggle with and avoid.
I resolve to move forward with my book project and to take steps EACH day toward the final product.
I resolve to experiment with different types of writing and seek new arenas in which to share my writing.”
Steve Rauscher, author of New Face in Hell:

“I need to devote an hour a night to my writing so I can finish the novel I’ve been working on since 2008 by 2013!”

Shawn Proctor, author of Heartwood and another list guy, says:

1. Find an agent for first novel. Stop wondering why it took so long to finish.
2. Finish second novel.
3. When in the middle of a project, write according to the Michael Chabon’s writing plan: 5 days a week, 1,000 words a day. (Try it. Your mileage may vary.)
4. Submit three times for every rejection. Seriously.
5. Read writers who inspire me. Write them each a message thanking them for being amazing.
6. Write something so amazing another writer will send me a thank you message.

Robert Masciantonio of the short New Girl in Town had this to say:

“In 2012 I’d like to get a few literary and comic books out there.”

Alisha Ebling, author of The Letter:

“My New Year’s Resolution for writing is to just continue to do it every day, no matter what. The more practice, the better it gets, and the less likely your characters and story are to become something foreign that you can no longer relate to.”

So how about other authors out there? They always say it’s good that goals that have been written down are more likely to be achieved, why not comment here and let us know? Thanks for stopping by.

Anthology Philly is the upcoming collection of short stories by Philadelphia authors. Editor Dennis Finocchiaro, author of Capturing a Moment and The Z Word, chose the best of new authors from the area and WragsInk compiled them into a book.

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